Gerald Sinstadt, one of the most instantly recognisable television sports voices as a commentator for BBC and ITV for more than 40 years, has died at the age of 91.
The versatile broadcaster, who covered golf as well as the Olympics, will be chiefly remembered for his football commentaries, first for Granada TV in the north-west in the 1970s and also with the BBC where in 1989 he was famously its pitchside reporter on the day of the Hillsborough disaster.
Sinstadt was one of the first commentators to criticise the racist abuse black players suffered, including during a West Bromwich Albion 5-3 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford in 1978 when Cyrille Regis and Laurie Cunningham scored the crucial goals.
His path to broadcasting might not have happened but for a cruel twist of fate involving his parents. Sinstadt, born in 1930, was the only child of shopkeepers in Folkestone and was evacuated during the second world war. Later, reflecting on the tragic death of the pair in a German air raid, he said: “I can still remember my teacher taking me out of class to tell me the news. I have wondered what might have been if my parents had survived. Who knows, I may have followed my dad and become a shopkeeper.”
The young Sinstadt made his first live commentary in 1949 for forces radio after his conscription into national service and was rewarded with a 7-6 cup game between an English and Scottish regiment.
“The game made my job easy and I thought: ‘Hang on, I can do this,’” recalled Sinstadt. “Unfortunately, I soon realised you couldn’t just turn up on the day and hope for the best. If you don’t do your proper research the listener will soon catch you out.”
After time on BBC radio and Anglia Television, Sinstadt’s informed but distinctively dry style became a feature of Granada TV’s Kick Off preview and of highlights shows on ITV from 1969 to 1981 when he became the station’s full-time football commentator. Sinstadt described the iconic moment Denis Law scored a cheeky backheel goal for Manchester City as his former club Manchester United were relegated to the then second division.
A cultured man with a passion for opera, he worked on programmes covering that art form as well as branching out to commentate on golf for Channel 4 when he left Granada TV before returning to the BBC in the mid-1980s to become a regular on Match of the Day, Football Focus and Final Score until his retirement.
Sinstadt settled in the Potteries after his retirement and wrote a weekly column for the Stoke Sentinel until 2019.